Medieval II: Total War.

Video Gaming has become a major part of our culture. Today, whether played individually or in groups (whether locally or via the internet) gaming has become as much a part of our culture as professional sports or television. Mario and Halo among other games have established themselves as bona fide cultural icons.

I’m a picky gamer. My personal preferred genre is turn-based, historical strategy/tactical wargames. A mouthful, huh? Why do I like these games so much?

Medieval: Total War 2
Medieval: Total War 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  • They offer an educational experience with (generally) highly detailed maps and historically accurate units and commanders.
  • They offer a intellectually stimulating experience require the use of significant analytical skills to determine the best methods to victory.
  • They offer significantly more hours of gameplay than most other genres of games, especially simple-one path games like most first person shooters (FPS).

Within this genre one game that stands out as an excellent example and worthwhile purchase as an entertaining and educational resource is Creative Assembly’s Medieval II: Total War. This game is part of a old (in gaming years) and venerable line of “Total War” games beginning with Shogun: Total War and most recently culminating in Empire: Total War. While the graphics and artificial intelligence have improved with the years, the basic gameplay has stayed remarkably the same.

Each Total War game represents a distinct historical period – in the instance of Medieval the period is somewhat obvious – it covers the medieval time period (e.g. crusades, early discovery of the new world). One takes command of any of a variety of historical nations and oversees one’s countries progress – first at a strategic level that includes town management, technology development, political negotiations, and military recruitment. Then when combat occurs one has the choice to enter into the tactical arena and to command one’s troops in beautifully rendered 3D worlds through a pausable real-time interface (bringing the best of cinematic historical combat with the intellectual challenge of turn-based combat).

I’ve never exhausted the bounds of a Total War game. Playing as each nation is a unique experience. Each nation has its own unique historical advantages and disadvantages (e.g. England must rely upon naval power while nations in Eastern Europe face continuous threats to varied influxing enemies) and playing through a single nation’s history in a single game can be a process of scores – if not hundreds of hours. Medieval II: Total War is not a game one sits down and plays in a day or a week or even a month – its meant to last month after month (for the casual, moderate gamer) and then one has only finished the game as that nation!

Medieval II: Total War also have a worthwhile expansion pack called Kingdoms which retrofits some features in Medieval II: Total War along with adding several additional campaigns (each of which could be a game in and of itself) including the Crusades, Americas (early conquistadors, inter-tribal warfare), Teutonic, and Britannia.

MII:TW is now available at bargain prices…as are older titles in the same series. So go to Amazon and grab both titles for less than $20 (the cost of two movie tickets, or four dvd rentals): Medieval II Gold Pack (Total War, Total War Kingdoms). Yes, of course, I get a referral fee – but seriously – these games are awesome. 🙂

Tilted Mill’s Mosby’s Confederacy.

Over Christmas Break Steam (hey, guys, what about an affiliate program?  i should get paid for this promotion ;)) had some absolutely amazing sales on games – including some strategy war games (I mean like 80-90% off). I purchased four for around $25 total – Rome Total War, Rome Total War: Alexander, Take Command – 2nd Manassas, and Mosby’s Confederacy. I’ve tried the first two and last one – haven’t had a chance to try 2nd Manassas yet, though I heard great things about it when it came out originally. I really enjoyed playing Tilted Mill‘s Mosby’s Confederacy so I’ve spent most of my available gaming time on that game (I just completed it).

Tilted Mill’s Mosby’s Confederacy is a combination strategic/tactical wargame (my favorite kind – thus my enjoyment of the Total War series). This game, however, is fairly simplistic compared to epics like Total War – it reminds me of the great classics by W.R. Hutsell (e.g. VGA Civil War Strategy). The game map covers only a relatively small area consisting of several towns and the surrounding areas in which Mosby actually traveled/fought/raided. At the strategic level one each turn gets to “develop” ones character (John Singleton Mosby) in a somewhat RPG element. Depending on the attribute you choose to enhance will effect how your character performs and what options for character development will be available on the next turn. At the town level you can upgrade a number of facets by using the reputation you earn in each battle. This can be utilized to increase support by the locals (increasing the radius in which they will fight for you), increase the size of stables, weapons cache storage, or hospitals, drill the soldiers in that town, upgrade your hospital, or upgrade the weaponry of your soldiers.

Each turn several missions are available. These missions revolve around several themes: destruction of enemy troops or capture of enemy munitions, horses, or officers – sometimes a combination of these. There are also special “star” missions which indicate a historically important endeavor Mosby undertook.

When one chooses a mission one can choose from the soldiers within reach of that location to participate in the battle. Each soldier receives experience as he enters into and successfully survives combat. Soldiers also develop characteristics – but this occurs automatically, rather than selectively as in the case of Mosby. Soldiers find a variety of specialties including sharpshooter, ranger, cavalry, and scout. You can provide the soldiers with horses if you have them available and must have enough munitions for your men (the more experienced men consume more ammunition).

Finally you are ready for battle. This is a real-time environment similar to that found in Sid Meier‘s Gettysburg or many standard RTS games (e.g. the popular Commando series) – though it is on a small-scale compared to say Gettysburg. At the most you will have twenty men under your command. The battle ensues at a somewhat slow pace, one attempts to capture the various objectives and receives reputation points based on a number of factors (in addition to any munitions or horses captured in battle) – how many enemy troops were killed, how many surrendered, what objectives were accomplished, how many men died from your troop, etc. You are taken back to the main screen and can then use these reputation points, assign a new skill to Mosby, choose a new mission and so on.

Overall – the game is very enjoyable. I do have a few small complaints:

  • You cannot save your game while in tactical battles. This is probably purposed to increase the difficulty of the game (no saving a certain point in the battle and trying over and over to obtain better results) but is annoying if you need to stop the game and work on something else for a while in the midst of a battle (you have to start the battle all over).
  • I have a fairly powerful computer that runs games well – but I experienced a slow decrease in performance during tactical battles the longer I played Mosby’s Confederacy. I suspect some sort of memory leak. I found that this seemed to occur most frequently if I increased the time speed in tactical battles. At regular speed it did fine, but speeding the time progression caused the units to move faster at first but eventually (after 10-45 mins.) the graphics would become choppy, the interface non-responsive, and even playing at the slower speed could be painful.
  • The documentation for the game consists of perhaps four or five pages – this is very disappointing. There is little information on the various attributes of soldiers, whether terrain/cover affects combat (I would hope so), and what the effects of putting a sharpshooter on a mount is or what having a cavalryman walk on foot is. Additionally I did not see any documentation on how to wisely utilize swords or bayonets – though both are available.
  • For most gamers outside of war strategy games this game probably has tons of playability – but for individuals who are used to the weeks and weeks (or months) to beat strategy games – Mosby’s Confederacy is so short, nor does it offer significant incentive for repeating the game again after completion (and fairly abruptly ends with a statement of your stats but little indication of how you did compared to the absolutely best possible).

This said, I’m more than satisfied with my purchase (I think it was $2.50 or $5) – I probably wouldn’t spend $13 on it (but I’m a cheapskate, I usually wait a year or two after a game comes out before purchasing it – except for Battlefront/Fury Software’s Strategic Command 2). If you have a hankering for Civil War combat – its a worthwhile purchase…I’m hoping that Tilted Mill will take the opportunity to make similar games using the same engine. It seems that with refinement this engine could even be used to create a grand strategy of the civil war – but I’d be especially interested in seeing more games similar to Mosby – perhaps focusing on the war west of the Mississippi (Arkansas, Kansas, California) or Stonewall Jackson‘s campaign in the Shenandoah Valley.

The Mega Sales from PC Game Digital Download Providers.

Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg
Image via Wikipedia

Updated! 12/25/10 – 11:36 P.M.

Around Christmas time several of the major digital download providers offer mega-sales on their games library and various individual developers offer sharp discounts on various games. I’m not a huge gamer – but I do love wargames.

Now, when I speak of wargames I’m using my own definition so let me clarify. By wargames I do not mean:

  • First Person Shooters (FPS) – e.g. Combat Arms, Medal of Honor, Call of Duty, Wolfenstein, Halo.
  • Real Time Strategy (RTS) – e.g. Company of Heroes, Age of Empires, Warhammer.

I do mean:

  • Games that are generally based around historical time periods and the realistic depiction of combat situations during that period.
  • Games that emphasize brainpower over finger-clicking power.

These genres can sometimes cross over – for example, Mosby’s Confederacy and Medieval II: Total War both include FPS elements but using a pausable engine that allows for significant strategizing (and also emphasizes unit movement rather than character).

Additionally, even within this narrowed genre I still eschew many games. I’m what is sometimes derogatorily referred to as a “beer & pretzels” (though I don’t like or drink beer) gamer. That is, I’m not a big fan of games that will consume my life in order to play them. I avoid games with maps that are too large or that require me to micromanage every aspect of combat and production – or even be aware of every aspect.

In any case, I’ve created a list of some of the pretty cool wargames that are currently available at steep discounts (and I mean really steep!). Spend $20 and you can have enough games to keep you busy for at least a year (no, I’m not getting paid to say this :P).

  • Games I own have an asterisk.
  • Games I’ve thoroughly enjoyed are bolded.
  • Games highest on my “want” list have a plus.
  • Steam:
    • X-Com – I know I said historical, but I’m making an exception for X-Com. These games are based on an alien invasion and mankind’s unified response. They offer both strategic and tactical elements and are genre-defining as far as gameplay. They began many years ago and still continue to be one of the most innovative and fascinating series available. $1.69/ea.
    • *Take Command: Second Manassas – Simulates the American Civil War battle of Second Manasses, also known as Second Bull Run. Offers a 3D pausable RTS interface similar to that found in Sid Meier’s Gettysburg or any of the Total War tactical engines. $2.49.
    • *Ironclads: High Seas – Naval combat in 3D. Naval games are a rarity, games simulating 19th century conflict even more so. $2.49.
    • *Ironclads: American Civil War – Created by the same folks as created above. Focuses on Civil War era naval combat. $2.49.
    • *9th Company: Roots of Terror – A real-time strategy game that covers the Russian 9th companies’ fight in Afghanistan back in the day (1970’s). This may be more of a straight-up RTS, but the storyline is so fascinating (and applicable to the current War on Terror) that I had to add it. $2.49.
    • *Mosby’s Confederacy – A fun, replayable, strategic/tactical simulation of Mosby, a famed and feared Confederate commander, raids and battles during the Civil War. $2.49.
    • *Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms – A great expansion pack for Medieval II: Total War. Adds the New World to the game. Requires Medieval II: Total War to play. $3.74.
    • *Rome: Total War Alexander – An expansion pack adding the Greek conquests of Alexander to the Rome: Total War game. Requires Rome: Total War. $3.74.
    • *Birth of America – A beautiful strategic simulation of the Revolutionary War by AGEOD. I find the map to be too large, beautiful, and detailed for my tastes, but sure to be loved by many. $3.99.
    • *Medieval II: Total War – If you only purchase one game – make it this one. It provides beautiful strategic and tactical simulations, rich cinematic cut-scenes, detailed historical information, and while an amazing game is also an educational experience. – $7.49.
    • *Rome: Total War – Gold – Strategic and tactical simulation of the Roman Empire. $7.49.
    • Rise of Prussia – This game is by AGEOD and probably has too large and beautiful of a map for my likes, but I might have to get it anyways, it sounds so fascinating. $7.49.
  • GamersGate
    • *Two Thrones. $0.50.
    • *Crown of the North. $1.48.
    • *Take Command – 2nd Manassas. $2.48.
    • *Rome Total War: Gold Edition. $2.99.
    • *Imperial Glory. $3.48.
    • Entente: WWI Battlefields. RTS. $3.74.
    • *East India Company. $3.74.
    • Combat Mission: Shock Force. $4.98.
    • Crusader Kings. $4.98.
    • Crusaders: Thy Kingdom Come. $4.98.
    • World War 2 Time of Wrath. $5.95.
    • Lords of the Realm 3. $5.99.
    • Civilization IV: Complete. $6.24.
    • Commander: Conquest of the Americas. $7.49.
    • *Medieval II: Total War Gold Edition. $7.46.
    • Squad Assault. $9.98.
    • AGEOD’s American Civil War. $9.99.
    • AGEOD’s Napoleon’s Campaigns. $9.99.
    • AGEOD’s Birth of America II – Wars in America. $9.99.
    • World War One (Paradox). $9.99.
    • +Lionheart King’s Crusade. $14.98.
    • Victoria 2 (Paradox). $19.98.
  • Slitherine
    • *Field of Glory – Click on the title of the game and enter the code ‘fog2010’ to receive 50% off!
  • Matrix Games
    • Advanced Tactics: World War II (33%) – $26.99.
    • American Civil War – The Blue and The Gray (30%) – $13.99.
    • Battle of Britain II – Wings of Victory (30%) – $13.99.
    • Battlefront (33%) – $33.99.
    • Battles in Italy (32%) – $33.99.
    • Battles in Normandy (32%) – $33.99.1WWII, from SSG.
    • +Campaigns on the Danube 1805 & 1809 (30%) – $13.99.2Adanac Command Studies.
    • Carriers at War (32%) – $33.99.
    • Close Combat: Cross of Iron (33%) – $26.99.
    • Close Combat: Modern Tactics (32%) – $20.99.
    • Close Combat: The Longest Day (33%) – $26.99.
    • Close Combat: Wacht am Rhein (33%) – $26.99.
    • Command Ops: Battles from the Bulge (25%) – $59.99.
    • Commander: Europe at War Gold (40%) – $29.99.
    • *Commander: Napoleon at War (40%) – $29.99.
    • Crown of Glory: Emperor’s Edition (32%) – $33.99.
    • Empires in Arms (32%) – $40.99.3Australian Design Group, 2007
    • Flashpoint Germany (32%) – $23.99.
    • +For Liberty (31%) – $23.99.
    • +Forge of Freedom (32%) – $33.99.
    • Gary Grigsby’s Eagle Day to Bombing of the Reich (32%) – $33.99.
    • +Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States (32%) – $33.99.
    • +Gary Grigsby’s World at War: A World Divided (33%) – $26.99.
    • AGEOD’s Great Invasions (30%) – $13.99.
    • +Guns of August 1914-1918 (31%) – $23.99.4Adanac Command Studies.
    • Highway to the Reich (32%) – $33.99.5From Panther Games, released 2003.
    • Hired Guns: The Jagged Edge (30%) – $20.99.
    • Horse and Musket: Volume 1 (30%) – $20.99.6Boku Strategy Games, 2009.
    • +John Tillers Battleground Civil War (30%) – $20.99.7Repackaged from the old Talonsoft titles.
    • +John Tillers Battleground Napoleonic Wars (30%) – $20.99.8Repackaged from the old Talonsoft titles.
    • +John Tillers Campaign Series (31%) – $23.99.9Includes repackaged WWII Talonsoft titles includes East Front, West Front, and Rising Sun scenarios.
    • Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets (32%) – $33.99.
    • Korsun Pocket (30%) – $20.99.
    • *Legion Arena: Gold (33%) – $26.99.
    • Napoleon in Italy (33%) – $26.99.10Hussar Games, 2007.
    • +Norm Koger’s The Operational Art of War III (33%) – $26.99.
    • Officers – The Matrix Edition (30%) – $20.99.
    • Operation Barbarossa – The Struggle for Russia (31%) – $23.99.
    • Panzer Command: Kharkov (33%) – $26.99.
    • Panzer Command: Operation Winter Storm (33%) – $26.99.
    • Steel Panthers: World at War – Generals Edition (33%) – $46.99.
    • Storm Over the Pacific (32%) – $33.99.
    • Tin Soldiers: Alexander the Great (30%) – $20.99.11Koios Works, 2004.
    • Tin Soldiers: Julius Caesar (30%) – $20.99.
    • Uncommon Valor (30%) – $20.99.12This is a Gary Grigsby game originally released in 2002. It covers the Pacific theater at an operational level.
    • War in the Pacific (32%) – $40.99.13Gary Grigsby game, 2004.
    • War in the Pacific – Admirals Edition (33%) – $53.99.
    • War Plan Orange: Dreadnoughts in the Pacific 1922-1930 (31%) – $30.99.14Gary Grigsby game.
    • World War II: General Commander (33%) – $26.99.
    • AGEOD’s World War One Gold (33%) – $26.99.
    • WW2: Time of Wrath (30%) – $20.99.15Available for $5 through Impulse Driven.
  • Strategy First
    • I just received an email from Strategy First with a coupon for 60% off all games using the coupon code “STRATEGYFAN” – it doesn’t say anywhere I can’t share it, so I’m sharing it…A lot of these games are available elsewhere, but I think a few might be unique to Strategy First…(be sure to look under both Strategy and Simulation).
    • +Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin
    • +Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord
    • G.I. Combat
    • Jagged Alliance 2
    • Stalingrad
    • World War I
    • World War II: Frontline Command
    • Great Invasions
    • *Strategic Command 2: Blitzkrieg
    • 1914 Shells of Fury
    • +Ironclads Anglo Russian War 1865
    • +Ironclads Chincha Islands War 1866
    • +Ironclads Schleswig War 1864
    • Rise of Flight: Iron Cross Edition
    • Steel Fury: Kharkov 1942
  • Impulse Driven
    • Crusaders – Thy Kingdom Come – $4.99.
    • World War 2 – Time of Wrath – $4.99.
    • Crusader Kings – $4.99.
    • The Entente – World War I Battlefields – $5.99.
  • GOG
    • *Imperial Glory – $2.99.
    • Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord – $4.99.
  • Direct2Drive
    • Nothing to see over here…pretty disappointing. 66 titles across all genres on sale.

Did I miss any really good games? I’m going to state, off the bat, that I’m usually not a fan of Paradox, AGEOD games b/c they are too hard-core grognard for me, and of 1C games b/c they are usually too RTS for me…but if you have exceptions that I missed, let me know.

Finally, I’d love to see some of the smaller independent vendors throw up some great deals. For example, Matrix Games doesn’t seem to have anything too exciting going on, nor does Battlefront. Suppose I should surf over to Jeff Lapkoff games and see what he is up to…

{Update: Matrix has some pretty decent deals, Battlefront is still disappointing, Lapkoff’s games are always reasonably priced, but no sales…}

P.S. There is a lot of overlap between Steam and GamersGate, check both before making a purchase – you never know which is going to offer the better price, and oftentimes there is a significant price difference (don’t ask me why – I’m just telling ya the way it is, not why…since they are selling the same game!).